Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that Dutch ace Max Verstappen will be on “everybody’s radar in the future”, but he stressed that the Silver Arrows won’t “flirt” with other drivers until they see what the situation is with their existing two drivers.
Both Sir Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will be out of contract at Mercedes at the end of 2021, and while George Russell is considered next in line, Verstappen is also believed to be high on their priority list.
Speaking during a virtual press conference on Tuesday that was attended by Formula1News.co.uk and took place following the launch of Mercedes’ 2021 car, Wolff said:
“The symbiosis that we have in the relationship, it’s always that we have a mutual understanding of what we want to do in the future.
“And that will be also the case in the discussions with Lewis going forward.
“Max is certainly an outstanding young driver that will be on everybody’s radar in the future, but we are not flirting outside before we have a clear understanding with our two drivers.”
Continuing, Wolff emphasised that they are looking to make a decision on Hamilton’s future in a much more timely fashion than they did last year, when the Brit’s contract expired and they didn’t ink a new deal until last month.
“We have agreed that we want to pick up the discussions much earlier this year, to avoid a situation like we had in 2020 where we ran out of time and were in the uncomfortable position that there is no time left before the beginning of the [next] season.
“That’s also why we only did a one-year contract: in order to allow us to discuss the future in racing and outside of racing longer. And with the right amount of time.
“What we’ve decided is to discuss things much earlier this year, not at the end of the season.
“I think if Lewis continues to race we will want to do this together. And we will discuss it shortly. And with Valtteri, we know exactly what we have and we appreciate this.
“At the same time the landscape changes with new cars, new regulations, and we’ve got to take the right decision for the team going forward. But that also means that we will have the discussions with our two drivers first, and then we will see where that goes,” the Austrian added.